OPINION

Remember when you could rely on a club's AFL history? Well, no more

St Kilda's Max King celebrates after kicking a goal during the Round 8 victory over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Photo: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
St Kilda's Max King celebrates after kicking a goal during the Round 8 victory over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Photo: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Just what is the new normal in AFL football?

Who really knows anymore?

With "Footyfest", as it's being dubbed, now under way, a catalogue of 33 matches over 20 consecutive days, it's difficult to know even where one round finishes and another begins.

Few clubs are getting to play at home, with most games at neutral venues thousands of kilometres from where they'd usually be held.

Injuries are stacking up in the tight schedule and the changes to line-ups keep coming.

Where are the once-reliable indicators as to how teams' fortunes may play out?

The answer may well be in the dustbin.

Surely there's never been a more difficult season in which to try to ace your office tipping competition than this one.

I've never been the most consistent of tipsters.

Perhaps that has a lot to do with my continued faith in history, which increasingly is becoming, as Henry Ford once famously described it, "bunk".

Some teams match up well against others. Some teams struggle at particular venues.

They're the sort of mantras I've often used as a "go to" when it came to the tipping business.

And depressingly, they too are being challenged like never before.

We had a taste of it last week when St Kilda played two games in six days against the two South Australian teams.

There was hardly a Saints fan around who wasn't wracked with anxiety in the lead-up to their round seven clash with the Crows at Adelaide Oval such had been their record in that match-up, not to mention any lingering scars from the disaster of the 1997 grand final.

If you were a fan of history, this looked like a real opportunity to pick up a tip despite Adelaide's winless status and St Kilda's decent form. On two counts.

The first was the Saints' failure to win a single game at the venue, Adelaide Oval, in 10 attempts.

The other was the string of 10 straight losses to the Crows stretching all the way back to 2011, Ross Lyon's last year as coach and St Kilda's last appearance as a finalist.

It did prove a struggle in the end, too. But the Saints' eventual 23-point victory dispensed with at least one historical millstone around the neck for a club which has had to put up with too many over the years.

Not content with that, last Saturday St Kilda took on a far more intimidating opponent in Port Adelaide and dispensed with the Power and more unwanted history in one fell swoop.

The Saints hadn't beaten Port since 2011 either, a run of eight consecutive losses, many of them thumping. Indeed, five of the last six had come by a minimum 33 points, two 70-point and one 63-point wallopings included.

This was a game which hung in the balance for three quarters. But in the end St Kilda steamrolled Port with a power-packed final term, flattening another historical impediment in the process.

Perhaps it's marginal, but for any team attempting to turn from pretender to contender, such making of its own history has to be a significant confidence boost.

St Kilda's old coach Lyon frequently played on that both with the Saints and later Fremantle with a mantra of "anytime, anywhere".

Just as well for St Kilda, too. Because this week, there's another historical bugbear with which to deal, the Saints coming up against Sydney, the Swans having beaten the Saints the last 10 times they've met, a run going back to 2012.

But this is a good year to rewrite history.

In fact, this is a very good week for clubs to rewrite history because, similarly to the Saints, many of the coming week's games feature match-ups in which one team has been dominant over the other.

The most obvious comes in Friday's Carlton-Hawthorn clash. The Blues have been the Hawks' bunnies for so long it's ridiculous, losers in 16 of 17 previous clashes, a run going all the way back to 2005.

Carlton's solitary win over the Hawks in this period came three years ago, by just seven points.

But it's doubtful the Blues will ever get a better chance to tip all that on its head than this meeting.

They're playing the best, most confident and attacking football they have for at least seven years.

They're up against an opponent at arguably their lowest ebb over the same period, Hawthorn coming off four straight losses, a fifth confirming officially the Hawks' worst run since 2010.

And, of course, in this bizarre football year, this is a game being played in Perth at 3.40pm local time on a Friday afternoon.

Not exactly the sort of environment that is going to produce for Carlton a dose of unwanted déjà vu.

It's not just more recent struggling teams who have had a weight of history against them this week.

Even Richmond went into Wednesday night's game against the Western Bulldogs having lost five of their six meetings with the Doggies.

The other significant historical legacies this week are Melbourne's failure to beat Port Adelaide nine of the last 11 times, and Greater Western Sydney's run of eight straight wins over Gold Coast, the Suns' last win over the Giants coming early in 2014.

That's a lot of hoodoos. Perhaps this week's roster should be called "jinx round".

But in this season more than any other, so would it also be entirely appropriate if yet more football history was tossed out along with countless other traditions of the game.

This story Remember when you could rely on history? Well, no more first appeared on The Canberra Times.